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Hans sama: “The most practice I receive is just visualizing League the whole day”

Tom Matthiesen

For the third Split in a row, Rogue ends the LEC’s Double Round Robin phase in first place. And for the second year in a row, the team enters the Summer Split Playoffs as the first seed. Only one best-of-five stands in their way between Rogue and a ticket to the League of Legends World Championship. But for bot laner Steven “Hans sama” Liv, all the energy is channeled to winning an LEC title first.

Hans sama

Hans sama feels that he is playing at an all-time career high at the moment. (Image courtesy of Michal Konkol for Riot Games)

Hans sama sat down for an interview to talk about reaching the Playoffs stage with a first-place performance, and why his team chose Misfits Gaming as their opponent. He also explained why he feels that he’s playing better than ever before, and how he maintains the form he’s in.

Hotspawn: Welcome, Hans sama, and congrats on getting first seed heading into the Playoffs! Last Summer you immediately locked in a Worlds spot by getting first seed, now you need to win at least one best-of-five. Does that make it feel very different?

Hans sama: Maybe a bit different. Maybe a bit. But for now, the difference for me is that I actually want to go all the way. Back then we instantly qualified for Worlds, so maybe I was like… It matters, right? But I think right now it matters more for me because I really want to try to win the LEC. I really looked for that in Spring and that’s what is different this time. And yes it’s also different that we don’t qualify for Worlds immediately this time. [Laughs] We have to beat Misfits first.

Hotspawn: To kick in an open door: why did you choose Misfits as your opponent?

Hans sama: I think they’re easier to beat than G2. [Laughs] I am pretty confident to play against them. I know their playstyle properly and I think I can make a difference against them.

I hope [G2] will go to Worlds. Along with us, of course. I respect them a lot and I think they’re pretty good.

Hotspawn: G2 didn’t have their best Split either, but looked much stronger towards the end. Is it a fear that they’ll continue this upward trend?

Hans sama: Yeah, I think they are playing a bit better and a bit different. I think Rekkles has played some champions that are interesting. It seems like they’re doing well with those picks. It’s something that I would have to watch out for if I would play against them. I hope that G2 will do well. This team has always been solid at playing international tournaments. I hope they will go to Worlds. Along with us, of course. I respect them a lot and I think they’re pretty good.

Hotspawn: Talking about your own performance, people say that you are playing better than you ever have. That this is the best year of your career. How do you feel about that sentiment?

Hans sama: In terms of performance… Probably, yes. I guess I have been ahead in most of the games. But I think, for me, I feel like I improve every Split, all the time. In the 2020 Summer Split, I felt that I had done pretty well. Maybe not in the Spring Split of 2020, but in that Summer Split I felt very nice about how much effort I put in, how much consistency I had. I feel like I was one of the best that Split.

But this Split and last Split, I seem to be ready to be at the top more than last year, I guess. I think I would say that last year was harder. I came from being one of the bottom teams in Misfits, then I had to go to Rogue and I had to step it up. I had to focus on every single game to the fullest. It’s not like I could beat everyone after being at Misfits. [Laughs] I had to work hard, so 2020 felt harder to me, but also pleasant.

I think what people are saying is probably right. I think this year I’m having my best year. I think I’m way better than I was in 2017. I think then I got carried more by my mid, jungle, support… they were just so good. [Laughs] At Worlds I was doing well, but during that year I was ok. So, yeah, I would agree with what people say about my performance now.

Hotspawn: In the Spring Split you told me you were focussing on your mental health a lot in order to enhance your performance. How has this developed since?

Hans sama: I’m always doing it. I think it’s a practice. I’m always trying to practice mindfulness, meditation. I don’t think I’m perfect on it. I think I have a long way to go to actually live the way I want to live. Sometimes I’m going down, but the good thing is that I always come back. This Split it happened multiple times, last Split it happened multiple times as well. I always try to come back. I don’t want to live like I’ve always lived, being on autopilot most of the time, playing League 24/7. It’s not that I’m fighting against it, but it’s just not something that I want to do again. I’m doing things smarter. I’m practicing mindfulness before the game.

For example, the loss against Vitality was a tough loss. So that night I practiced mindfulness as well. I knew the way to come back mentally to be even stronger for the next game, so that’s something I was happy about. When things become tough, my mind tends to be so tense that I can’t focus on anything else. Every thought is coming in. Everything is just uncontrollable. That’s my state of mind, for example, after the Vitality loss. But then I practiced meditation and I came back to being in a calm state.

Hotspawn: You mentioned being on autopilot, playing League basically 24/7 in the past. There’s been a discussion recently about how much pro players should be ‘made’ to play the game by their team and how much should be up to the player. What is your take on that?

Hans sama: I just have theories. I saw something about it on Twitter and I was thinking that maybe in other regions, solo queue is more productive when you’re in high LP than EU solo queue. So yeah, then I could definitely practice more and get more from those games, I guess. But here, in EU solo queue, I tend to have the habit to just make nice solo queue games and play them the right way. I don’t want to int it. I feel like everyone wants to int so I will start to int because that’s how the environment is, I guess. I have to try hard to stay in the right state of mind. I don’t get as much practice.

The most practice I receive is just visualizing League the whole day. The past two weeks, I was just thinking about League. Maybe not 24/7, but most of the time it’s in the back of my mind. It’s always there, I notice it. When I sleep it’s on autopilot, when I’m waking up I feel it.

I make sure that, if I have the will to win, I’m gonna find a way

Hotspawn: What do you visualize then? Drafts? Certain plays? Matchups?

Hans sama: It’s a lot of things. I’m very attached to the game. So, yesterday it was mostly about the draft because I want to visualize which champion I’m gonna play. [Laughs] I want to be prepared for it because I play a lot of champions. Sometimes I visualize the matchups that I will be playing so I’m ready to enter the lane, how I want to pressure the map… There are a lot of things about the game. There are so many things to think about and I feel like it’s exciting to realize there is more room to improve. When I think like that, there is so much new and creative stuff that I can bring.

I also visualize my behavior, like when I will practice. Maybe tomorrow I’m gonna practice at 2 PM, so I will visualize in order to be ready to practice and that I won’t be caught up by the time. I’m visualizing the things that should matter.

Hotspawn: So you think of the possible scenarios that might happen in the game, and when they happen you’re prepared and ready to play into them. Is that how I should see it?

Hans sama: I think, right now, I’m pretty good at the game. So I feel like I need to have the skill to maintain my form instead of being all over the place. I could play worse in some games, but right now I’m really confident that I’m good. So it’s not like I have to practice endlessly to make each champion better. I think I’m pretty decent on the champions that are in the meta right now.

Most of the time I’m thinking about how the opponent is playing. I think about their playstyle to make sure I’m prepared for it, so I don’t instinctively forget something. I don’t really overthink “If they do that, I do that”. Maybe sometimes I think about it, but I just become aware of it. I make sure that, if I have the will to win, I’m gonna find a way. It’s important for me to feel like “I really want to beat them up” to hype myself, and my instinct will follow.

Hotspawn: Thanks for joining, Hans sama, and best of luck in the Playoffs!

Hans sama: Thank you! I’m gonna show nice things in Playoffs. [Laughs]

Rogue plays their next LEC game against Misfits Gaming on Friday, August 13th, at 6 PM CEST. You can watch the game live on the official LoL Esports website.